Hot in 2019: Top 10 commercial chiefs

K Williams, D Williams, Gordon, Barker, Nicklin, Bush, Nasr, Litster, Patel and Allan
K Williams, D Williams, Gordon, Barker, Nicklin, Bush, Nasr, Litster, Patel and Allan

A look back on the best of our industry in 2019.

10 Matt Bush

Agency director, Google UK

Running agency sales for Britain’s biggest media owner might appear easy but it’s hardly a "gimme" when Google has a reputation for setting demanding internal targets and no-one is immune to Brexit uncertainty. Bush has a terrier-like approach to driving revenue but has also displayed a more considered side by launching a series of video interviews with agency leaders.

9 Rakesh Patel

Head of sales UK, Spotify

With Spotify’s UK revenues from ad sales and subscriptions on course to grow more than 25%, reaching £600m this year, Patel is part of a fast-growing operation shaking up the audio market and moving into podcasting. The former Auto Trader executive is passionate about improving opportunities for all in media and is trying to bring that mindset to Spotify UK’s recruitment.

8 John Litster

Managing director, Sky Media

Low-profile Litster has kept even further out of the limelight this year as his new bosses at Comcast have taken a close interest in Sky Media, particularly AdSmart, which they are importing to the US. Getting Channel 4 to sign up to the targeting technology was an important coup for Litster, whose team’s revenue has been hit by the voluntary, "whistle-to-whistle" ban on gambling ads during most live sport.

7 Dominic Williams 

Executive director, advertising, Mail Metro Media

The ex-Dentsu Aegis Network buyer has brought a more open and collaborative approach to the publisher of the Daily Mail and MailOnline, swapping yachts for thought leadership at this year’s Cannes Lions. Changing perceptions takes time, especially given the Mail provokes strong views, but getting shortlisted for Media Week Sales Team of the Year showed the subtle shift has been resonating in the market.

6 Dara Nasr

UK managing director, Twitter 

Nasr is, arguably, the most visible and most personable of all the sales chiefs from the big US tech giants that operate in the UK. He has built a close-knit, intelligent and fun-loving team, which was shortlisted for the second year in a row for Media Week Sales Team of the Year – no mean feat, given the brand safety and trust issues that dog the digital sector.

5 Davina Barker

Sales director, Digital Cinema Media

Barker is a key reason why DCM punches way above its weight as it has become a regular annual fixture on the shortlist for Media Week Sales Team of the Year, enjoying steady revenue growth while many bigger media owners have struggled. In an industry short of senior women in ad sales, she won recognition when she was named Commercial Director of the Year at Campaign’s British Media Awards in May.

4 Jonathan Allan

Chief commercial officer, Channel 4

"JA" is turning into something of a Channel 4 veteran after eight years in charge of ad sales, although much of his year has been spent on regional expansion, most notably in Leeds, the broadcaster’s new "national" headquarters. He has shaken up his commercial team and added more client-facing people, plus he helped to strike a partnership with Sky that includes going onto AdSmart and sharing content – a sign that Channel 4’s £1.2bn sales operation does need allies.

3 Hamish Nicklin

Chief revenue officer, Guardian News & Media

The ex-Googler has kept up The Guardian’s reputation for ad innovation despite all the focus on voluntary reader donations helping the publisher to break even this year. Nicklin has championed what he calls "modern advertising" and the value of trusted context for brands, and GNM won Commercial Team of the Year at 2019’s Campaign Media Awards.

2 Mike Gordon

Chief commercial officer, Global 

The long-serving boss of Global’s radio and audio sales operation has doubled his empire after the triple out-of-home integration of Exterion Media, Primesight and Outdoor Plus, which are all now part of Gordon’s team. Stephen Miron, chief executive of Global, topped this list a year ago but makes way for his chief commercial officer, who is preparing to pitch to agencies about the OOH proposition and how "cross-media" deals will work with radio.

1 Kelly Williams

Managing director, commercial, ITV

The TV market has had a bumpy year but Williams and his deputy, Simon Daglish, ensured ITV remained the prime marketing vehicle for brands ranging from the John Lewis Partnership to Missguided. Williams’ £2bn-a-year outfit won Sales Team of the Year at the Media Week Awards, brought in Kate Waters to build its in-house planning function and invested in addressable platform Planet V.

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